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♪ good evening. i'm michael smerconish in tonight for chris matthews. leading off, gun fight. the pictures alone were dramatic.
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former congresswoman gabrielle giffords nearly killed by a bullet seated at the same witness table as the nra's wayne lapierre. >> you must act. be bold, be courageous. americans are counting on you. >> as the rest of the country something must be done to prevent gun violence. the nra and the allies in the republican party are digging in. we'll look at what president obama can and can't accomplish on gun safety at the top of the program. plus does president obama want a deal on illegal immigration? which would be huge on his legacy. or does he want the issue hanging around so republicans get punished at the polls by latino voters. we'll get some answers tonight. and it may be last call for the tea party. consider this. republicans with national
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ambitions claim they want tome to stop being the stupid party. conservatives are working with democrats on illegal immigration. and fox news parts ways with sarah palin. dana milbank says it's all evidence the tea party is losing steam and he's with us tonight. plus the boy scouts of america are considering dropping their ban on gay volunteers and members. it's another sign of the progress this country has made on gay rights. but not without controversy. and finally, is the most powerful republican in the senate the next victim of the gop purity effort? we'll begin with the hearing on gun safety. mark glaze and david corn the washington bureau chief for mother jones magazine. mark, let me begin with you. you were there. were there any surprises or did everyone play their usual role? >> there's a certain amount of kabuki to every hearing. and certainly there is on something like this. i would say there was a fair agree of civility.
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and there were republican members on that committee who are not gun control fans but are quite thoughtful and showed they get the gravity of the moment and are open to rethinking the issue. >> david corn, let's look at more of former congresswoman gabrielle giffords' powerful testimony earlier today. >> speaking is difficult, but i need to say something important. violence is a big problem. too many children are dying. too many children. we must do something. it will be hard, but the time is now. you must act.
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be bold. be courageous. americans are counting on you. thank you. >> david, what brought it all home for me, these are the notes that gabrielle giffords wrote herself for her testimony at today's violence hearing. they were posted on the facebook page of her pac americans for responsible solutions. giffords' husband mark kelly cofounded the organization with her. he gave powerful testimony as well today. >> we believe wholly and completely in the second amendment and that it confers upon all americans the right to own a firearm for protection, collection, and recreation. we take that right very seriously, and we would never, ever give it up just like gabby would never relinquish her gun and i would never relinquish mine. but rights demand responsibility. and this right does not extend to terrorists.
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it does not extend to criminals. and it does not extend to the mentally ill. >> one more thing i want you to see. following this morning's testimony, gabby giffords and mark kelly met with president obama in the oval office. so david corn, i show you all that and i ask how can the momentum to the extent that momentum exists right now on the president and the white house side, how can it be maintained? how do you maintain that level of emotional testimony? >> well, it was quite an emotional moment watching gabby giffords get up there courageously and her husband who i've met in the past i have to say is damn impressive. he was a hero for going up in the space shuttle and now he's a hero for taking on this hard issue and doing it with such great aplomb. it's important, keep him and gabby giffords and the kids in newtown, keep them in the spotlight. let them have the platform they want. the only way anything happens on
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the gun violence prevention front is if the intensity level remains on the side of people looking to change the status quo. you know, you know on the side of the nra and extremists on that side, there is already the intensity. it's always been there. they care about this. it's often their top issue. and for those who want to change and have some common sense solutions about high-capacity magazines and other provisions, you've got to fight that intensity with intensity of your own. >> but i -- you know, i agree with your assessment about the intensity, about the emotion. but still even in the face of it -- and mark you were there, you can speak to this. the nra not giving an inch. wayne lapierre got in a heated exchange with senators durbin and leahy over background checks. and he made clear the nra would not give an inch on that issue. let's watch. >> we got to get in the real world on what works and what
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doesn't work. my problem with background checks is you're never going to get criminals to go through universal background checks. >> mr. lapierre, that's the point. the criminals won't go to purchase the guns because there'll be a background check. we'll stop them from the original purchase. you missed that point completely. i think it's basic. >> senator, i think you missed -- >> let there be order! >> i think you're missing it. >> please wait. as i said earlier, there will be order. >> and the chair of the judiciary committee patrick leahy also tried to pin down lapierre on the same issue. background checks. >> should we have mandatory background checks at gun shows? >> if you're a dealer, that's already the law. >> that's not my question. i'm not trying to play games here. but if you could, just answer my question. >> senator, i do not believe the way the law is working now
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unfortunately, that it does any good to extend the law to private sales between hobbyists and collectors. >> with all due respect, that was not the question i asked. nor did you answer it. >> but i think it is the answer. >> mark glaze, if we can't get it done on background checks where the polling data i see suggests seven in ten americans are supportive, what means assault weapons and clips will be game? >> everybody should have to pass a background check because they back passed background checks. i would not take this too seriously. this is people staking out their positions. but i think wayne lapierre would find it very hard to stick until the end of this process with the position of rejecting something that 70% or 80% of his base actually thinks is a pretty good idea. so i think we can get background checks done. there's overwhelming support for it. but there's also strong support for a limit on magazines and also for a ban on assault
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rifles. but your initial question and david's answer were exactly right. this is only going to happen if the american people make it happen. that means they have to call their representative, they have to write the white house, and they have to get behind the effort to make sure members are hearing about this when they go home to their districts for recess. >> there was a heart breaking article in today's "washington post" by the parents of daniel barr don who called for action on guns. any improvement to our laws no matter how small or reasonable shall not be decried as the forward wave of an attempt to ban guns or take away rights. even though who have lost the most are suggesting no such thing. that's the argument i hear when i go to radio listeners. it's the slippery slope. if we give an inch on this, they'll come for everything. >> like if you put a speed limit on the highway, pretty soon they're going to take your car away from you. again, this issue has been demagogued by people just like
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wayne lapierre and his allies that any common sense limitation means your gun's going to be swept up by helicopters. one comment they made today over and over again, wayne lapierre and people on his side, is that we already have existed gun laws and they're not being enforced effectively. >> right. >> but one reason why they're not enforced effectively is because the nra and republican senators have time and time again tried to defund and handcuff the bureau of alcohol tobacco and firearms and anything else they can do to get in the way of enforcement. so there is just so much demagoguery and hypocrisy on that side that keeps the flame going, we have to just keep trying to -- like the op-ed you just quote, have to keep dousing those flames to try to get some of these modest limitations. >> and the epidemic continues. meanwhile gun violence continues day in and day out.
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just yesterday 15-year-old hadia pendelton shot in a park not far from her high school. she was in washington with her high school band where she performed in the inaugural heritage music festival. mark glaze, another criticism i hear from those that don't want any change to gun laws, if you take all that being discussed and you apply it to the mass shootings that have been so much a part of the news, they would not have prevented those incidents. i'm sure you've heard and deal with that. what's your response? >> well, it's true in some cases. i mean, no law you pass is ever going to stop killing. there are at least 300 million guns in the country and the nra is largely responsible for that. so it's true you're not going to stop everything, but this is what you do with laws. you close the loopholes you can. by doing that you can make an enormous difference. all these mass shootings are mass because of a high-capacity magazine and assault weapon involved.
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the tucson shooting probably did happen because loughner's records were not the the criminal background check data base and should have been. >> mark glaze, thank you. david, i've got to run but thank you as always. we appreciate you being here. coming up, would president obama rather get a deal done on immigration or let the issue fester who the republicans continue to get run at the polls by latino voters? this is "hardball," the place for politics. hey, buddy? oh, hey, flo.
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you want to see something cool? snapshot, from progressive. my insurance company told me not to talk to people like you. you always do what they tell you? no... try it, and see what your good driving can save you. you don't even have to switch. unless you're scared. i'm not scared, it's... you know we can still see you. no, you can't. pretty sure we can... try snapshot today -- no pressure. massachusetts governor duvall patrick has named a place holder to fill the senate seat of john terry. he'd be the second african-american in the senate. tim scott of south carolina, another appointee is the other. it's the first time in history that two african-americans have served in the senate at the same time. in selecting cowan, governor patrick passed over former congressman barney frank who openly lobbied for the job. cowan will serve until april
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30th when massachusetts voters will choose someone to fill out the remainder of kerry's term. we'll be right back.
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>> it's a matter of republicans and democrats coming together and finding a meeting of the minds and then making the case and, you know, i'm hopeful that this can get done and i don't think that it should take many, many months. i think this is something that we should be able to get done certainly this year and i'd like to see if we can get it done sooner in the first half of the year. the president's approach is very similar to what a bipartisan group of eight senators called for earlier this week. now the question is can something get done? will republicans in the house be willing to vote yes on a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are in this
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country illegally? that could be a hard sell. many republicans say president obama is all too happy to let the issue fester and watch as their party continues to struggle with hispanic voters. however, politico's mike allen says that doesn't pass the political smell test. quote, this is one of the few political mysteries that has an unambiguously correct answer. top demes tell us if president obama is going to have a big legacy accomplishment this term, it has to be immigration. so he's making an historic test of whether the campaign machinery can translate to governing. joining us is howard fineman and nia-malika henderson. nia-malika, let me begin with you. what's your answer to the question of the president's true
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objective here? >> well, i think his true objective has been what it always was. even going back to 2008 when he campaigned on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. obviously wasn't able to get it done in his first term. gave a bunch of speeches that essentially laid out the same thing he laid out yesterday, the sort of guiding framework where he wants to take thi>> mentions
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have gone to the cofounder of instagram. finally, travels with hillary, we've seen no shortage over the past four years. all the same the secretary has been game for the lighter moments of her job.
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>> can i put one on like you have over there? [ singing ] ♪ ♪ >> things got musical on several different occasions. then there was this photo shoot in hawaii with hong kong's chief executive. that was, in fact, a half dressed torch bearing man dashing behind them. and then there was the speech featuring a knock at kim jong-un. >> time has honored so many national and global leaders. there's many i haven't had a chance to meet yet. i was sort of hoping kim jong-un would show up.
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i don't think he's here, but if you catch sight of him, let me know. we're still trying to figure out what he's all about. >> finally, we can't forget the clinton-approved meme texts from hillary like she's going to love the new justin bieber visit video. up next, is it next for the tea party that seems to be losing steam? that's ahead. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics.
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we've got to stop being the stupid party. and i'm serious. it's time for a new republican party that talks like adults. we had a number of republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. i'm here to say we've had enough of that. >> welcome back to "hardball." for more than a year now, we've seen stories asking whether the tea party was on its way out. and during all that time, it has only strengthened its hold on the american party. but dana milbank provided a great op-ed looking at notable events the past week that suggests many republicans and
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supporters are growing wary of the tea party's grip on the gop. last thursday governor bobby jindal from louisiana told the rnc it's time for the gop to stop being the stupid party. on friday fox news said thanks but no thanks to sarah palin. on saturday word leaked that speaker john boehner had called some of his own members hard heads. and on monday john mccain and marco rubio signed on to an immigration proposal that's not all enforcement. it includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the states. dana milbank is with me along with joan walsh of salon. joan, are you buying the demise of the tea party argument that dana has made? >> i would love to, but i think it's too soon. and dana says that himself. all of these data points are real.
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i guess the only one i would take issue with is the bobby jindal characterization. i think bobby jindal remains, i guess talks a good game but remains a conservative force and tea party force. because he's trying to do away with personal income taxes. and he wanted to eliminate hospice care for medicaid patients. so this perspective on spending that the tea party brought certainly hasn't gone away. anytime you've got 36 united states senators who voted down sandy relief a couple days ago, you know that something has fundamentally changed about the way that republicans talk about government. so i think it's too early to say
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that they're dead, but all the things dana points to are good signs and signs of some kind of sanity seeping in. >> and dana, maybe it's all in a name. because i think what continues on for sure is this conservative domination particularly in republican primaries. i mean, here you've got mitch mcconnell being threatened now in kentucky and next year's election from the right. >> right. and the tea party's never really been an organized political force. and i'm using that as a shorthand for the far right that's been dominating the party right now. and as i point out in the column, that force really isn't going anywhere because of the redistricting, because of the way things are structured in the house. and because of this primary system. we also have saxby chambliss bowing out rather than face a primary challenge. the element of the party is going to be dominant for some time to come. is the tea party isn't over, but what i think you have is some of the more sober revelers in the tea party are heading for the exits because they realize this thing is getting rowdy and the police are showing up and it's going to get ugly. i think that's what's going on here. people who are interested in 2016 who realize the party has to change are growing a bit of bravery right now in saying we can't continue to tolerate this. >> well, let's take a look at
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where the tea party stands among americans. cnn opinion research poll taken this past november shows the tea party has a 50% unfavorable rating. that's double what it was in 2010. meanwhile the tea party's favorable rating has pretty much stayed the same. i think dana makes a great point when he talks about partisan districts. 435 congressional districts in the country and really only 35 of them are in play. well, those that are held by republicans are still going to have this influence in them regardless of whether we refer to them as the tea party types. >> that's exactly right. you know, i call it gerrymandering. i'm fine with that word. what you're seeing is those districts people are only afraid of a challenge from the right. they don't have to fear centrist republicans. then you have the states that are solid red states like
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georgia, for example. you could have a paul brunn. and iowa will be another one. does steve king somehow emerge to sadly, tragically, somehow take tom harkin's seat? or does someone come out with the nomination because iowa is not a red state. it's certainly purple. but in the red states like kentucky and georgia and in the really red districts, you're still going to have this extremist view about government and about spending and also about immigration. i'm really curious to watch this unfold and see the education of marco rubio and whether he is doing this to appear centrist, appear reasonable but quickly backs down to the forces of reaction? or whether he perseveres with this and really tries to get something done. >> well, let's not forget the tea party aligned folks such as christine o'donnell, ken buck, plus todd akin who i guess is a tea party candidate but was in spirit only. they all lost senate elections that should have been slam dunks
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for the republicans. the gop needs to be careful. because they want to keep that as part of their constituency. they just don't want them running the show, i guess is what i'm trying to say. >> right. and if you put together all of those candidates that you just mentioned and these were all safe seats for the republicans in the senate. had they won those seats, they would be in charge today. they need it to harness the energy from the far right but not be taken over by it. i think a lot of sensible voices in the party are saying we've got a problem here. if we want to win again, we've got to do something about it. yet they've structured the system this way so that all of their members are just terrified of losing in a primary far more than they are of defying the will of the american electorate. the problem is going to be here for a long tile. but you're seeing the chris christies, the marco rubios, and
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the bobby jindals beginning to say we've got to change something. >> and joan walsh, briefly, the gop cannot afford them to form a libertarian effort of their own. that would be a death nail for the gop. >> right. and chris christie isn't a libertarian, so the strains they represent, too, are different strains of the republican party. but the republican party needs to hold together to be a national party. i don't think that's going to happen. but if those voices of slight reform get completely muddled, something will happen. >> thank you very much. dana milbank, congrats on what you wrote. up next, the boy scouts are considering dropping their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. but not everybody's on board. that's ahead. this is "hardball" the place for politics. [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso. i just served my mother-in-law your chicken noodle soup but she loved it so much... i told her it was homemade. everyone tells a little white lie now and then.
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but now she wants my recipe [ clears his throat ] [ softly ] she's right behind me isn't she? [ male announcer ] progresso. you gotta taste this soup.
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[ male announcer ] why do more emergency workers everywhere trust duracell...?? duralock power preserve. locks in power for up to 10 years in storage. now...guaranteed. duracell with duralock. trusted everywhere. the big rig is on life support. gop officials in key states are taking a stand against rigging the electoral college system in favor of republicans. rick snyder says he's against any scheme that would split votes. and in ohio there are no plans to push the plan in the buckeye state. earlier this week virginia's governor and attorney general said they were against the idea. and florida officials nixed it. that leaves pennsylvania and wisconsin where both governors have yet to rule out tinkering
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with the electoral vote. we'll be right back.
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we're back. it could soon be the beginning of a new era for the boy scouts of america. the group's board will decide next week whether to allow gay scouts and scout leaders among their ranks reversing their long-held ban. my guest tonight james dale took on the scouts in a case that went to the supreme court which in 2000 decided the boy scouts were allowed to refuse gays including dale himself. also with me tonight nbc's pete williams who broke this story earlier this week. welcome to both of you. pete, what's the latest? is this is a done deal? >> seems like it. people we talk to that both support and oppose this move who have been briefed by the scouts and scouting insiders all tell
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us they strongly expect it will pass when the board meets in texas next week to talk about this. what it would do, michael, is remove the long-standing national membership requirements. it could leave it up to individual organizations to decide for themselves. some may well say we want to admit them. some may say they don't. and the scouting organization says parents and sponsored could decide for themselves which one they want to send their children to. it has support within the board, they say, and they strongly expect it will pass. >> james dale, is that enough for you? >> thank you. it's a great first step, but i don't think they should kick the can down the road. you can't have children in one group thinking that discrimination is acceptable and scouts in a neighboring group to think it's unacceptable. i think that nondiscrimination needs to be top down as well. >> what i didn't realize until reading up on this subject over
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the last couple days after pete broke the story is the president of lds and catholic church within scouting. and it would seem to me, mr. dale, neither of those are going in a direction you would like. >> i think it's interesting whether it's those two churches or inauguration last week, america has evolved. this isn't the america from 23 years ago when my case first started. i think there's a lot of evolution that has gone on. >> let me put up the scout oath, if i might. and you certainly know it by heart, i'm sure. on my honor, i will do by midwest to do my duty to god and my country, and to obey the scout law; to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake. here is the key part, and morally straight. pete williams, when i tell my sons that they're going out of
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the house and i want them to be on the straight and narrow, or if i were to refer to pete williams as a straight arrow, i'm not referencing sexuality at all. from the outside looking in, one looks at the scout oath and wonder how did this ever become a conversation about sexuality? >> well, and of course the scouts would tell you, and they made the same claim during james dale's case before the supreme court that they don't mean that straight in the straight or gay context. it's the morally they're focusing on. by the way, what the supreme court said in mr. dale's case is the scouts have a first amendment right to who will speak for them. that's they're right because it's a private organization. other have said the scouts have a right. this is a decision by the scouts. they claim that it is not just top-down. they're very prominent member, ceos on their board who said they want to change this. but they say it's come from the ranks and chapters as well. >> i certainly believe that this
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has come from the ranks and file. but i think what is most interesting, they went to the united states supreme court for first amendment shield for new jersey's law against discrimination in 1999. so now that they're saying that they don't stand for anti-gay discrimination, and that gay is not immoral, i wonder if that kind of calls the whole legal issue into question again. are there going to be new lawsuits? i think the best thing for the boy scouts to do to prevent other people from finding themselves in a situation like i was 23 years ago is just do it once and do it the right way. >> james, i had a fellow call my radio program yesterday, as a matter of fact, a guy who identified himself as being gay and said that he has two sons in scouting, which raised an interesting question of what applicability does this have to parents. hopefully none. but it brought out the issue of at eight years old, do they really know their direction? i mean, how could this possibly be enforced if it has a sexual connotation? >> i think the enforcement that is taking place is self-destructive. i think what they're doing is
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teaching young kids, whether they're gay or not that gay is immoral and that it's harmful. i think they're sending a really bad message. i think the better question is are they still going to be relevant if they don't catch up with the times. >> hey, pete williams, correct me if i'm wrong, but wasn't this a subject of agreement in the recent presidential cycle? weren't president obama and governor romney both on the same page that scouting should be open to all? >> yes that. >> both were. they both said so during the campaign, that they thought that scouting should change the view. and i think, michael, what i've seen in the last couple of days in response to the reports about what the scouts are going to do is, you know, a feeling all over the map. some who feel as james does that this doesn't go far enough, some who welcome it, though. there are many chapter, even some associated with churches who have been saying they welcome this new policy. they probably will admit gay members. and then there are other organizations that you referred to earlier who probably won't. so you're seeing a response across the spectrum. >> james dale, we ought to find
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out next week, i guess. just ten seconds left, but this ought to come to some fruition next week? >> i definitely look forward to it. and i really hope they'll do the right thing and just do it once so the scout troops can move on beyond sexual orientation and get back to scouting. >> thank you for that. thank you, pete williams. thank you, james dale. >> thank you. >> you bet. when we return, let me finish with the most powerful republican in the u.s. senate who could be taken down by his own party. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. [ female announcer ] going to sleep may be easy, but when you wake up in the middle of the night it can be frustrating. it's hard to turn off and go back to sleep. intermezzo is the first and only prescription sleep aid approved for use as needed in the middle of the night when you can't get back to sleep. it's an effective sleep medicine you don't take before bedtime. take it in bed only when you need it and have at least four hours left for sleep. do not take intermezzo if you have had an allergic reaction to drugs containing zolpidem, such as ambien. allergic reactions such as shortness of breath or swelling of your tongue or throat may occur and may be fatal.
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let me finish tonight with this. sometimes 90% just isn't good enough. ask mitch mcconnell, the most powerful republican in the u.s. senate, who despite that lifetime approval rating from the american conservative union is now out of step with some kentuckians on the right. a recent courier-journal bluegrass poll of register voters found twice a many promising to vote against mcconnell than those supporting him. and only 34% of republicans said they would support him against all competitors. some in the bluegrass state are clamoring for a primary challenger for mcconnell. mcconnell's supposed misstep? the positively audacious acts of helping to craft the 2008 wall street bailout and negotiating with vice president biden on a version of the fiscal cliff a couple of weeks ago. it all raises the prospect that yet another gop senate seat could succumb to the ongoing purity effort.
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and worse, inflicting the self-inflicted wounds, many republicans are working on changing the way votes are tabulated in presidential election. gop officials in pennsylvania, florida, michigan and ohio have considered abandoning the winner take all approach to electing presidents. the ramifications would be significant. if every electoral vote in the country were awarded by congressional district plus two votes for the state-wide victor, mitt romney would have won the electoral college 276-262. if florida, michigan, ohio, pennsylvania, wisconsin, and virginia adopted the new system, obama's sizable margin would have been reduced to just four, 271-267. luckily, republican leaders in several of those states are throwing cold water on those efforts. and i think they're doing their party a favor. it's crazy to tinker with the electoral college system while losing winnable senate seats to the fringe factor. and fixing that dynamic should be the party's priority before

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